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The Ultimate Guide to Plastic Free July (and beyond!)

In today's society we use plastic everywhere. It’s littered throughout our homes, shops, workplaces, cafes and favourite restaurants. And for good reason, too - it’s extremely convenient, increasing the shelf life of goods and decreasing the price of everyday items. But at what cost?
plastic bottle in the sea

The sheer amount of plastic making its way into our environment is staggering. An estimated 8 million tonnes of plastic waste finds its way to the ocean annually, eventually entering the food chain and causing irreparable harm to the marine life that mistake these pieces of floating plastic for food.

It’s time we all took a step back and re-evaluated our relationship with plastic. Below you’ll find a list of purchase and lifestyle changes – some big, some small – that you can start to adopt to make a difference! Even adopting just one will get you started on the path of changing your relationship with plastic.

Say no to bottled water

In Australia, we’re lucky to be able to drink our water from pretty much any tap. So why are you still paying $4 for a Mount Franklin bottle of water? Bring your own reusable water bottle so you can fill it up on the go. Not only will you be saving cash, but it’ll also stop a hell of a lot of plastic bottles entering our waste stream.

Reusable shopping bags

If you’re already not doing this, go grab a fabric bag now and leave it in the back of your car! While bag bans have seen to the demise of the old-school single use plastic bags from Coles and Woolworths, consistently buying the thicker plastic bags are just as bad or even worse. Remember your shopping bags people!

reusable shopping bags

Ditch frozen food (but do freeze your own!)

Whatever brand you end up buying, frozen meals will invariably end up having plastic in them, whether it’s a plastic lining inside the container, plastic film covering the food, or the container is just completely plastic.

But there is a solution – and it comes with benefits! Grab yourself some stainless steel lunch containers then cook and freeze your own meals! But I can’t cook!  Well, no better time to learn than the present! There are plenty of recipes online, and if you haven’t learned to cook yet, let’s be real, it’s probably time you did! Also, 9 times out of 10 your price per meal will be cheaper and you’ll be able to completely control your ingredients, leading to healthier eating habits.

Plastic produce bags

Plastic produce bags have managed to escape the general plastic bag ban, but that doesn’t mean they’re any less harmful. Greenwashing terms such as ‘degradable’, ‘biodegradable’ and ‘plant-based’, have made it’s way onto retail packaging and make it more confusing to choose the best sustainable alternatives. Look out for compostability logos which allow bags that can be composted in your home backyard! Produce Bags like the ones from Greenmark are made from PLA, derived from cornstarch and 100% home compostable.

compostable produce bag

Keep Cup

Bringing your own cup with you to your local cafe stops a cup and lid from entering the waste stream, and if you’re a coffee addict, that can add up really quickly. For those of us that don’t have a bag on us every day – try just having your coffee in the store using the reusable mugs. You might find you enjoy your coffee all the more without getting it taken away! A simple plastic-free change for a massive difference to the planet.

Visiting the deli?

All that plastic and paper wrapping around your favourite meat cuts can be completely avoided by using your own containers. Stainless steel containers, again, are an excellent choice, and will help keep your meats and dairy fresh.

Single Use Plastics – say no!

Cutleries, straws, and plates are all the biggest offenders. If you’re ever in a situation where it’s unavoidable, make sure to request the store to look into plastic free, compostable or reusable solutions – it shows customers care, and will be a key factor in changing their behaviour.

You can clean organic, too

It’s easy to forget that you can actually clean without detergents – white vinegar, lemon, baking powder & water in various combinations can solve most of your cleaning problems without resorting to chemical intervention. See this blog by The Huffington Post for more details on cleaning green!

lemons

And while you’re at it, replace those plastic scrubbers with material clothes – they’ll last longer and are easy to clean! You can even get some wire scrubbers for those tough baked on stains – just try to use brands that have cardboard packaging!

Dishwashing Tablets? No thanks!

Just looking at the picture below. Yep, all individually wrapped – nice packaging decision, Finish. If you have a dishwasher, use dishwasher powder in a cardboard box – Ecover sell a range of plastic free and ecologically sound solutions (although many other brands will also do!)

finish dishwashing tablets

Free yourself from Gillettes Evil Grasp – Adopt a safety razor

Ever notice how Gillette/ Bic/ Schick razor handles go on sale every month or so, but blades never seem to drop in price? That’s how they get you! Ontop of being expensive, they’re designed to be disposable with the material being unrecoverable.

Break the cycle! By getting a safety razor you can get some of the cleanest shaves in your life, and also feel awesome while doing it. There are a huge variety of blades to choose from, and it’ll pay for itself in a couple of months.

Most Importantly, Educate Yourself!

Your most powerful weapon on the war against waste is to educate yourself. Knowing the difference between plastics, which are actually recyclable, as well as the various composting methods and  what can and can’t be composted – these are all important things to arm yourself with.

Reuse – Recycle – but don’t discount the power of organics. When food packaging comes into contact with food, in many cases it makes the product non-recyclable (due to food grease and oils) and can contaminate other plastics if thrown away in recycle bins with food scraps. 

Using compostable food packaging minimizes contamination and makes disposal easy in hectic environments (like festivals, expos, takeaway shops without washing facilities, etc), preventing thousands of tonnes of food from ending up in landfill. If you’re a business owner, keep an eye out for ways you can implement compostables to make a change for the better!

compostable packaging

Your quest to be plastic free won’t happen overnight, but being aware that a problem exists and curbing plastic habits is already the second step. The first step was reading this article!

Remember – just keep at it! Rome wasn’t built in a day, and reducing our reliance on plastic will be an ongoing commitment.

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